China has lodged an official protest with Myanmar and called for an investigation after a Myanmar military aircraft dropped a bomb in Chinese territory, killing four and injuring nine others.
The official Xinhua news agency reports the bomb hit a sugarcane field near China’s border with Myanmar in southern Yunnan province.
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin summoned Myanmar’s Ambassador Thit Lihn Ohn late Friday, issuing a protest and urging the country to conduct a thorough investigation. Liu also called on Myanmar to seriously punish those responsible and take steps to ensure such incidents do not occur again.
It is not the first time in recent days that fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic rebels near China’s border has spilled over into Chinese territory.
Earlier in the week, China’s Foreign Ministry said a house in Yunnan had been hit by shelling from across the border. And according to the Communist Party-backed Global Times newspaper, a Myanmar fighter jet crashed in Chinese territory Thursday after dropping two bombs. The wreckage was later found by local residents, according to the report.
China’s air force said it began stepping up air patrols of the border on Friday, but it was not immediately clear if any Chinese fighter jets were in the air when the incident occurred.
Air Force spokesman Colonel Shen Jinke said China has already sent several groupings of fighter jets to track, monitor and warn off Myanmar aircraft. Shen said China would continue to monitor the airspace closely to prevent Myanmar aircraft from crossing the border and to protect territory.
Myanmar’s military says ethnic Chinese rebel leader Peng Jiasheng is trying to seize control of the capital of the Kokang autonomous region. It has also raised concerns that he was receiving support from across the border in China.
Chinese authorities have flatly denied the allegation, stressing that they respect Myanmar’s sovereignty. Rebels have also denied any links.
However, rebel leader Peng released an open letter to Chinese around the world before the fighting began, calling for their support and highlighting the Kokang region’s historic links to China.
The Kokang offensive began February 9 when an alliance of armed groups, including the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), attacked multiple Myanmar military positions in an effort to regain control of the region that had been lost in 2009. The MNDAA is the ethnic Kokang army under Peng Jiasheng, who ruled the Kokang self-administered region until a cease-fire, signed in 1989, broke down. He is believed to have been living in exile in China for the past five years.
The Kokang group has said it hopes to return to autonomous rule, and is unhappy about the imposition of martial law.
Online, there has been persistent criticism of Beijing's stance and its upholding of the principle of non-interference, which China routinely applies to foreign conflicts.
Some urged the government to stop talking and take action, while others took aim at the Chinese military’s massive budget, rampant problems of corruption and what they said was its inability to protect average citizens.
The fighting along the border in Myanmar has forced tens of thousands to flee the area and into neighboring China.